Friday, April 24, 2009


Six year-old Lola takes forever to brush her teeth. Last night I checked on her to see her singing and posing, and I gestured strongly that she should brush her teeth.

"I just distract my own self!" she explained.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

celebrating everyone's favorite California penal code section

I had a hectic day on Monday, and it was a bit insane getting my art supplies organized and driving over to my evening art class on time. As I drove into Golden Gate Park, I noticed that there were an unusual number of cars there for a Monday evening, but since it was a rare hot day, I figured people were probably taking advantage of being outside on a sweltering evening (it was one of those days which set heat records all over the region and made one reflect again about that damn global warming). But there weren't just a lot of people in the park: there were a lot of idiots about. In the little parking lot by the Sharon Arts Studio, a moron drove the wrong way at top speed, and there was a large group of people walking seven abreast through the parking lot (I resigned myself to not being on time to class and didn't even attempt to get them to bunch up as any sensible group would do when walking through a frigging parking lot).

In the parking lot, there were a number of people hanging out in or by their cars, some of them sending off those glowering vibes which cause me, after decades of city life, to walk faster, not make eye contact, but affect a confident and casual demeanor (in the World of Warcraft, we talk about "drawing aggro", and I was definitely drawing aggro by the mere act of being a white person carrying art supplies through that parking lot). I'd never had that experience in Golden Gate Park before. A woman who was missing some teeth was selling t-shirts in the parking lot.

As I walked to the studio, I was hit by a football being thrown about by a pair of morons who didn't apologize, but just giggled. The lawns were packed solid with people. I could smell smoke -- barbecue smoke, cigarette smoke, pot smoke. There was a man guarding the entrance to the Sharon Arts Studio, turning away a large number of people who, for no discernible reason (possibly full bladders) wanted to know what was going on in that building and why couldn't they go in. I was waved in, and I asked my teacher, "Dolores, is that a scheduled event?"

She said simply, "It's Four Twenty." Suddenly it all made sense, and I felt like an idiot. Being unemployed, I don't pay much attention to calendar dates, and I never was a pothead. "I'm such an idiot," I confessed.

Dolores assured me, "I didn't know, either. I had to ask Liz", the ceramics teacher. "Liz explained it to me." A classmate was still confused. I explained: "420 is the California penal code section penalizing possession of marijuana. So if you love marijuana, when it's 4:20 you can think about it and toke up, and if it's 4/20, you can celebrate your love of marijuana." The older members of the class were bemused. However, I heard one of our token twentysomething students confide in the other youngster, "It's so hot; I was so tempted to just stay outside and smoke, but I didn't want to come to class like THAT", going on to express the likely horror us older students would have for someone under the influence of the green leaf. I dismissed her concerns. "Oh, just sit in the back. No one would care."

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

a trick question

Six year-old Lola asked me, "Mama, have you ever met the devil?"

Abstractedly I muttered, "No, I don't think so."


former lawyer writes blog! No film at 11, but book reviews.

I learned from being in an article which ran on the front page of the Wall St. Journal (granted, the two paragraphs about me, Iris and Lola were after the jump, on an interior page, but the article began on A1) and, at more length, in the Wall St. Journal's blog, that only one person I know currently reads the Wall St. Journal attentively (hell, I let my own subscription lapse after Murdoch bought it). But someone at the ABA read it and cranked out an article on me. You'd think they'd have felt like contacting me first, wouldn't you? Or at least checking my State Bar listing and saying what law school I went to. And is "former lawyer writes blog" news? Not exactly. If there's one thing a former lawyer knows how to do, it's type, and if you're not writing motions or memoranda, you might as well blog.

If I'd only known precisely when this was going to happen (my interview with the very thoughtful and thorough Ms. Gamerman of the Wall Street Journal occurred months ago), maybe I would have put up a Potemkin Village post and written something particularly witty. It hasn't been a wit-filled time, though: I'm still recovering from the Most Unforgivable Fight Ever with the Sober Husband and his mother's week-long visit. It's probably just as well I didn't even try.

While I haven't been being witty or particularly productive in any way, I have managed to read some great books lately. Indeed, some of these books were so compelling that I skipped my usual Warcraft playing for a few days.

"The Revenge of the Spellmans" by Lisa Lutz, just out, is brilliant. The third in a series about clumsy, funny Isobel Spellman and her overly intrusive family, whose family business is a detective agency, this book has a sparkling wit. Isobel has pathos and problems, but plenty of Guinness and the vocabulary of a longshoreman keep her barreling along. I loved it.

More seriously, "Lost Paradise" by Kathy Marks was a gripping and disturbing read. Ms. Marks, an Australian journalist, was one of six reporters sent to tiny Pitcairn island to cover the recent landmark sex abuse trials. Cooped up on a island only a few miles wide, inhabited by only 50 residents, Ms. Marks had to face the stares and gibes of the Pitcairners daily, who told her that family problems were best dealt with privately and that she, like all reporters, was a liar. Ms. Marks is made of stern stuff and delves into the history of Pitcairn, settled by some of the Bounty mutineers and their kidnapped Polynesian mates, to derive some disturbing conclusions about how rape and child molestations came to be so prevalent and how the myth of Pitcairn Island as a perfect society came about.

"Beat Until Stiff" by Claire M. Johnson was an engaging and too-short murder story set in the culinary world. I loved the inside look at the upscale food world, which rang very true based on what chefs I know have told me. I also loved Ms. Johnson's heroine, Mary Ryan, and Ms. Johnson's impulse control as an author. There were so many points at which Ms. Johnson could have taken Mary into a more conventional direction, and I appreciated her restraint. I will definitely pick up Ms. Johnson's other works.

"The Senator's Wife" by Sue Miller: Ms. Miller is a deep thinker, indeed, who writes intelligent, lovely prose and creates realistic characters who are flawed but engaging. A couple, who got married and pregnant after barely knowing each other, move next door to the estranged wife of a famous Democratic senator. The younger woman becomes fixated on her older, glamorous neighbor.

"Safer" by Sean Doolittle was a particularly gripping read. I picked it up thinking to read the first chapter and didn't set it down until I'd read at least two hundred pages, and then only because the importunities of the children could not be ignored any longer. An academic couple move from Boston to a small college town in Iowa. After their home was broken into on the day they moved in and the wife was assaulted, the newcomers are warmly welcomed by the community and become involved in the local neighborhood watch. As they are settling in and feeling oddly at home, given how different their sleepy subdivision is from hectic Boston, the husband falls into a feud with one neighbor which begins to escalate. The problem is that his neighbor, a genial man and retired police officer, seems like the sensible and sane one to everyone, and our underemployed, overeducated professor is starting to sound crazy even to his wife when he rants about this.

This reminds me of my feud with the sociopathic contractor building a house near me, and how my own husband kept siding with the tiny psycho against his own wife. The man tried to sabotage my car, and what did my husband do? He returned the evidence to him. It's when you're in a real feud with an unsettled person that you realize that you're alone in a cold, harsh world. Your spouse fades off to the office, pleading the exigencies of work and suggesting that you're the one in the wrong, and you're left alone to seethe and fear for your own personal safety. Anyhow, a brilliant and gripping book which I recommend highly.

And finally, a book which gave me so much unexpected pleasure, "The Elfish Gene" by Mark Barrowcliffe. Who would have thought that a memoir about playing Dungeons and Dragons as an unpopular, bullied adolescent would be so delightful? I loved, loved, loved this book. Mr. Barrowcliffe has a sharp wit and an unbelievably unblinking and immodest ability to chronicle his most embarrassing moments and epic fails, such as how he took to wearing an Elvish cloak (made from polyester) around downtown Coventry until some soccer hooligans threw him into a fountain. Here's how he starts the memoir:
You may consider that you wasted your youth. Perhaps you spent it shooting pool in some smoky hall, locked in your bedroom playing the guitar or just partying hard when you should have been studying.

That is not a waste. That is not even the beginning of a waste. I'll show you a waste. When others were developing the ability to win a few bucks hustling in a local bar, to lead a singalong at a barbecue or just to speak to the opposite sex, what I got for my endeavours was a wizard with a frost wand.
Read, people, read. In a world where sociopathic contractors and work-loving spouses can torment a sensitive soul, where mothers-in-law come to visit just when you're not on speaking terms with your husband, and where you finally get mentioned in your favorite newspaper, but only after Murdoch has dumbed it down and you ended your subscription and no one read it anyway, we have the delights of literature to console us.

Monday, April 13, 2009

now it's public: the children will need therapy

I've always longed to be captured in one of those pointillistic pictures in the Wall St. Journal. That day may never come, but my arguably defective parenting has been cited as a educational and possibly cautionary example on the front page of today's Wall St. Journal. The children thrill at their newfound fame.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

insults of the urban child

I overheard kindergartener Lola calling her big sister "You crazy cabdriver!" the other day.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

well, uh, I guess that makes sense

Kindergartner Lola states rather matter of factly, "I am Satan's kitten!"

Friday, April 03, 2009

dammit, I suck as a mother

On any given day, I spent huge amounts of time at home and am readily available should any emergency befall a child of mine. On Thursday, I had agreed to do a solo counseling session BEFORE a joint counseling session. Since I was going downtown, I planned a side trip to Bloomingdales' for make-up, returning books to the library, and picking up art supplies for my Monday collage class (I had the assignment of buying 4 new acrylic colors and a block of "canvas paper").

When my counselor and I broke for a bathroom break before the joint session, Anton, waiting for the joint session, informed me that Lola was sick and that he had picked her up at school and parked her at my friend Joyce's house (thank you, Joyce, I owe you, oh magnificent one). I was suffused with huge guilt. There I was, the first time in three months that I"d gone around shopping, buying art supplies and make-up and whining in a private therapy session while my child was ill. Such bad timing.

Sometimes I hate myself, sometimes I miss the old days when I was a childless lawyer. God knows that being availabe six days out of seven sometimes isn't enough when you're a parent of a small child.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

an authority on life at a young age

Lola is only in kindergarten, but she's a clever and original thinker, and the years of combat with her older sister have honed her skills in arguing. Recently Lola reverted to resisting going to kindergarten (this was started by guests who were discussing home schooling. Lola had never realized before that her mother makes a choice in sending her to kindergarten, and that if her lazy old mother felt like it, Lola would never have to go to school again). After her request to be home-schooled went nowhere, Lola insisted that she was too sick to go to school. This was met with a polite refusal to believe on my part (and open laughter and derision on Iris's part. "You're sick? You were running around and laughing! Look, you're going to laugh!"). I did ask her to list her symptoms, and rather unconvincingly, "I have to go to school ALL WEEK" and "There are one hundred million days of school" were cited as symptoms, along with vague issues of various body parts allegedly hurting.

Peevishly Lola said the next day, "No DOCTOR said I wasn't sick." I had to admit that third grader Iris and I don't have medical degrees, and I had to admire her reasoning.

Last night Lola resisted going to bed. Along with a variety of other excuses, she stated firmly, "It's not the right weather to go to bed."